Day of the Falcon (Black Gold) (2011)

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Released 21-Aug-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Historical Epic Trailer-Eagle Entertainment releases x 6
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Transforming the Desert
Storyboard Comparisons-From Storyboard to Screen
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 124:48
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jean-Jacques Annaud

Eagle Entertainment
Starring Mark Strong
Antonio Banderas
Freida Pinto
Riz Ahmed
Tahar Rahim
Liya Kebede
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music James Horner

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Day of the Falcon is set in Saudi Arabia in the 1920s or 1930s when the area is a maze of warring tribes. As the film starts Sultan Amar (Mark Strong) has been defeated in battle by Emir Nesib (Antonio Banderas); in a peace settlement it is agreed that a strip of the desert called the Yellow Belt will become an unoccupied no-man’s-land between their kingdoms and that Amar will give up his two young sons as hostages to be raised by Nesib. Years pass. Amar’s eldest son Salem (Akin Gazi) has grown up into a young man mostly interested in hunting while his younger brother Auda (Tahar Rahim) is a slight young man interesting in books and learning. However, his intelligence has caught the eye of Nesib’s daughter Leyla (Freida Pinto) and she watches him from behind closed doors. But the world of the desert peoples changes forever when Texas oilman Thurkettle (Corey Johnson) advises Nesib that he believes that there is high grade oil under the sands of the Yellow Belt.

     Nesib breaks his agreement with Amar and allows Thurkettle to drill and extract the oil in the Yellow Belt. With the revenues he receives Nesib builds schools, medical facilities and libraries, as well as electrifying his city, all benefiting his people. He also upgrades his military, purchasing aircraft and armoured cars, and uses money to bribe the nomadic tribesmen to support him. But not everyone agrees with the drilling, and wells are attacked and workers killed. Amar is also hostile, believing that Nesib has breached their peace agreement; he and his tribe are traditional and conservative, banning western medicine for example, and believing that the oil should stay in the ground as it is merely a symptom of greed: “anything that can be bought has no real value” Amar states at one point. It is a conflict between progress and conservative values, with no middle ground.

     With the region on the brink of war, Nesib allows Auda and Leyla to marry, thus joining Auda to his family. He then sends Auda to his father in an attempt to negotiate peace. Auda is torn in a number of directions: he is a man of peace, not war, he is a progressive and does not agree with his father’s conservative values, and he loves Leyla, who he had to leave behind. In any event Auda sides with his father and when war starts he shows an unexpected capacity for leadership and tactics. But war can be unpredictable and have unexpected winners and losers. Yet, irrespective of the result, the desert of Saudi Arabia, and the lives of the tribesmen, will never be the same.

     Day of the Falcon (also called Black Gold in the US) is financed by an Arab, Tunisian Tarak Ben Amar, filmed in Tunisia and Qatar and tells a little known Arab story that is worth telling but, other than some of the minor roles, the film is very much European in feel and execution. It is filmed in English based upon a book by a Swiss author, directed and shot by Frenchmen, has a score by an Englishman and the leading roles are filled by English, Spanish, French and Indian actors.

     The film is based upon the novel The Great Thirst by Swiss author Hans Ruesch and is directed by Frenchman Jean-Jacques Annaud, an interesting but hardly prolific director with only a dozen films released over the last 35 years. However his output is diverse and impressive, such as the medieval murder mystery The Name of the Rose (1986), the spectacle of Seven Years in Tibet (1997), the intensive action of Enemy at the Gates (2001) or the family friendly adventure of Two Brothers (2004). The cinematographer is Jean-Marie Dreujou and the music is by prolific English composer James Horner who won an Oscar for Titanic (1998) and has been nominated six other times, including for action films Aliens (1989) and Braveheart (1995).

     There is anything wrong with using a wide range of talent to make a more saleable film. Certainly Annaud knows how to deliver action and the battle sequences in Day of the Falcon are chaotic and spectacular with horses, camels and armoured cars racing across the desert and sand and bullets flying, and if the cavalry charge and aircraft attacks are lesser relations to those in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) that is not unexpected. Otherwise the desert locations of Day of the Falcon are stunningly photographed by Dreujou, the interiors finely detailed and the use of colour is beautiful, with some of the deepest, richest and most vibrant colours I have seen in a long time. However, the casting is another matter.

     With perhaps an eye on the international market, the two Arab leaders are played by an Englishman, Mark Strong, and a Spaniard, Antonio Banderas. This is not to say that westerners cannot play Arabs, and it is impossible to forget the performance of Anthony Quinn in Lawrence of Arabia for example. Indeed, Mark Strong, with beard and hook nose, is fine, but his character disappears for a long time and, in fact, has limited screen time. The acting of Antonio Banderas in the film has generally been criticised, and it is easy to see why as his Emir Nesib is all distinctive Banderas voice and mannerisms. Of course, in a Moslem production one could not expect a Moslem woman to play the partially undressed love scenes, so Indian actress Freida Pinto was hired. She is a good actress, as she showed in Michael Winterbottom’s recent Trishna (2011) but she really has very little to go on with here other than to look beautiful.

     However, for me the real problem was Tahar Rahim as Auda. Day of the Falcon is Auda’s story and he is seldom off screen, being required to transform from slight, bookish intellectual to fearsome war leader. French born of Algerian extraction, Rahim is an accomplished actor, as he showed in winning two Césars for A Prophet (2009) (for both Best Actor and Most promising Actor), but here he does not convince in either aspect of his role which undermines the story. Indeed, perhaps the most interesting performance in the film comes from Riz Ahmed (who was Pinto’s lover in Trishna, although they have no scenes in Day of the Falcon) as Auda’s half-brother Ali.

     Day of the Falcon covers an interesting and little known (to western audiences) period in the development of Saudi Arabia. The film is really about the impact of the discovery of oil upon the traditional values of the region; it is progress opposed to conservative ways, and we certainly know how that debate ended! Not a lot happens in the first hour of Day of the Falcon but the film is always spectacular to look at with some stunning colours and landscape cinematography. However, for me the casting choices undermine what might have been an epic historical film.

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Transfer Quality


     Day of the Falcon is presented in an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1, the original ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     As noted, this is a glorious print with beautiful rich colours. The reds, greens and blues of the clothing and uniforms show out clearly against the dun coloured desert and towns, the interiors are finely coloured and detailed. Detail elsewhere is also very good, with both close-ups and wider shots sharp and crisp. Blacks are deep and solid, shadow detail exceptional. Skin tones are natural, brightness and contrast consistent.

     Other than some very slight ghosting, minor aliasing around vertical lines and shimmering end titles, artefacts were absent. There were no marks.

     There are no subtitles.

     The layer change was at 53:15 during a scene change.

     A truly spectacular print.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     The audio is a choice of English dts 5.1 at 754 Kbps or English Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps. I listened to the dts track and sampled the Dolby Digital. I must say I heard very little difference between the two.

     Dialogue was occasionally indistinct but the sense was not lost. This is not an overly aggressive audio, except during the battle scenes. During the rest of the time it was quite subtle, with effects such as the sound of a camel’s creaking harness, voices, the wind and music. The engines, gunfire, hooves and explosions during the action scenes filled up the sound stage but again did not seem as resounding as other modern action audio tracks. The subwoofer added bass to horses’ hooves, engines and explosions.

    Given that some of the cast were not speaking English on set and had to be looped, lip synchronisation was very good.

     The original score by James Horner is epic and supports the visuals well.

     The audio track did job done well without being special.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     Note: the DVD packaging lists as an extra “The Making of ‘The Day of the Falcon’”, an extra which is available in other regions. Unfortunately, this extra is not on the DVD.


     The following trailers play automatically on start up. They can also be selected individually from the menu: Sucker (2:22), The Crown and the Dragon (1:04), Stranded (1:40), UFO (2:23), The Scapegoat (1:29) and Eden (2:16)

Transforming the Desert: The Visual Effects of Day of the Falcon (3:05)

     A comparison of a range of before and after CGI shots, including landscapes, buildings and extra horsemen in scenes. No commentary or text, only music. Quite interesting but all too short.

From Storyboard to Screen (2:48)

     Split screen comparison of the storyboards and the final film of one sequence involving the aircraft.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 1 US version of Day of the Falcon lists the making of (41 minutes), transforming the desert featurette and storyboard comparison extras, but indicates the aspect ratio is the incorrect 1.77:1, which would be a crime for such a spectacular film. The Region 2 UK release is listed as 2.35:1 but no details are available of the extras.

     There is more information about the Blu-ray releases. The Region A US release is in the correct aspect ratio and includes the same extras as the DVD. The French Region B Blu-ray includes all the above extras, but adds another making of (approx. 49 minutes), two photo galleries and a commentary by director Jean-Jacques Annaud. However, the commentary is in French, without subtitles. The film and the documentaries are in English, but with forced French subtitles.

     If our local release included the making of that is listed on the DVD package it would be similar to the US release but in the correct ratio so would be the best choice. As it is, that substantial extra is not included. Buyer’s choice.


     I enjoy the films of French director Jean-Jacques Annaud and Day of the Falcon includes good battle scenes and some stunning colours and cinematography but the casting choices undermine what might have been an epic and inspiring history film. The film is certainly worth watching for the spectacular vision on the screen and because it covers a period little known to western audiences.

     The video is wonderful and rich with colour, the audio is fine. In Region 4 we only get a couple of minor extras, but miss out on the more comprehensive featurettes available in other regions.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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